Recently, I went to Lake Toba area to check off my travel bucket-list. Lake Toba is in North Sumatra area and it is the largest lake in Indonesia. Lake Toba used to be a volcano and it erupted and become the largest volcanic lake in the world. Within the Lake Toba, there’s an island called Samosir Island.
First thing first, I toured around Samosir Island using a guide and car. The guide is a Samosir local name Bapak Rommel. You can contact him by message or call his number at +6281375999700. I’m putting his contact number here because I personally think he’s such a wonderful guide. When I hire him as my guide, we rode his car to bring us around (the price includes the car rent). Bapak Rommel took me to 6 spots when in Samosir Island. Those places can be reached if you don’t use guide as well, so don’t worry.
How to Get to Samosir Island?
To get to Samosir Island, first you have to go to Parapat. If you come from Medan, then you should can rent car or ride a bus to Parapat (via Pematangsiantar). There are quite a lot of choices of shuttle transportation such as Nice Trans and Paradep (if you’re on budget). If you’re staying in a hotel, you can ask the concierge which shuttle transportation they recommend.
After you arrived in Parapat, you can choose either to stay in Parapat or continue to Samosir Island. In my case, I stay in a hotel in Parapat. The next day, I took a boat from Parapat to Samosir. There are two popular ports in Samosir, which are Tuk Tuk and Tomok. I’d suggest to go to Tomok first and then go to Tuk Tuk by land. To go back to Parapat, you can either go from Tuk Tuk or Tomok. The one-way boat ride from Parapat Port to Tomok Port is around Rp. 8000 per person. The boat ride is only 30 minutes and available every hour.
What to Do in Samosir Island?
What I did in Samosir is a day tour with Bapak Rommel that I mentioned in this upper post. For your information if you do book Bapak Rommel, you will meet him in Samosir Island, not in Parapat. He will pick you up from Tomok Port and start the tour from there. The tour starts from Tomok (where you get off from the boat) and continues to Tomok, Ambarita, Hot Spring Pusuk Buhit, Batak Cuisine and the best view from Simanindo. There’s more to do in Samosir Island like hiking and bicycling but in this post I will focus on the tour with Bapak Rommel.
You arrived in Tomok already if you decided to take the boat ride to Tomok from Parapat. Tomok is a small village and Bapak Rommel took me to an alley where it’s full of souvenir shop. Around that area, you will have to hire local guide if you want to hear history explanation. There’s Batak Museum, the king’s tombs and traditional Batak house.
Tuk Tuk is where most of the accommodation located. It is the small island that connected to Samosir (see in Simanindo part to get what I mean). You can rent car, bike or motorbike in Tuk Tuk too. Tuk Tuk is best to meet up with other backpackers and locals. Or if you’re anti-social, you can just appreciate the beauty of Indonesia and chill along Lake Toba.
Ambarita is another village in Samosir and famous for the stone chair of the King Siallagan. Batak people use to have their own kings and kingdom. Bapak Rommel will also take you to a Traditional Batak House and it’s culture. The Traditional Batak House is not occupied and become a tourism display. Both the stone chair and traditional batak house need entrance fee. He also took me to the weaver of ulos fabric, traditional Bataknese fabric. You can buy the fabric in the souvenir market in Tomok. You can also watch tradition Batak dance but it has their own schedule. So make sure to tell Bapak Rommel if you want to watch it.
Bapak Rommel is from Samosir so you can trust him in term of the best Batak cuisine. I forgot the name of the restaurant but it great food. I also enjoyed the background of the restaurant, which is a small, long waterfall among the green highlands. The restaurant seems like in the middle of nowhere and it’s a real Batak cuisine experience. Batak cuisine that I tried is roasted pork (babi panggang), cassava leaves (daun singkong), saksang (pork with pork blood) and pork knuckle.
The Hot Spring or Aek Rangat (in Bataknese) is not in Samosir Island anymore. It is in Sumatra Land and very close. You can take a bath and chill in the hot spring there. I personally don’t do anything there other than seeing the source of hot water guided by Bapak Rommel. There’s not much to do in there, but it’s part of the tour.
Going back to Samosir Island and Simanindo location is in the higher ground but close to Tomok. This location is my ultimate favorite. The view of Lake Toba and Tuk Tuk is just amazingly breathtaking. Somewhere near Simanindo is perfect for paragliders. There’s paragliding competition around summer time every year in this Samosir Island. From where I took the pictures below, it is a small shop and place to chill. Go eat Indomie (Indonesian pride, the best noodle haha) or noodle cup, tea or coffee. Then indulge the view of Lake Toba.
When to Visit Samosir Island?
I ask Bapak Rommel (the guide) regarding on when is the best time to visit Samosir. He said that May-August is the best time to visit Samosir. Actually, to visit Lake Toba to be exact. But keep your eyes on the news because Lake Toba is surrounded by active volcanoes that can erupt anytime. You definitely don’t want to spend your days in a chaotic way. During my visit to Samosir Island, there was one volcano erupted a little bit, but nothing huge.
Where to Stay in Samosir Island?
For me, I didn’t stay in Samosir Island but in Parapat. I stayed in Danau Toba Cottage. The reason is because I had to go back to Medan (via Sipiso-piso waterfall & Berastagi) the next day. Nevertheless, there are several guest houses and hotels with mostly in Tuk Tuk area. The price of the accommodation in Samosir is quite cheap as it is targeted mostly to backpackers. Do you know that Lake Toba is a popular destination for backpackers as their final destination after traveling South East Asia? You can go search them on the Internet and book directly from their website.
My Tips on Traveling in Samosir Island
Okay, it’s actually not a tips but more like an impression of Samosir. Samosir is located in Lake Toba, North Sumatra as you might already know. The thing is, it’s underdeveloped in term of tourism and infrastructure. You cannot expect it to have a great five-stars hotel or chained hotels in Samosir. What I observed is there are a lot of western backpackers and they mostly stay in guest house. Guest houses are more popular in Samosir as it is probably more attractive for westerners.
You can expect everything to be very cheap, but they will for sure increase the price knowing that you’re not Indonesian. It is fine to negotiate but please don’t push it. How to know if it crazy overpriced or not? Well, as an Indonesian, I never know too, but that’s why I hire a guide can help you. However, don’t negotiate on entrance fee or boat ride fee, trust me it’s already super cheap! Tips are acceptable. If you think you receive a great service from them, you can give them some tips. Generous one I hope ;).
The people of Samosir are mostly Batak people. Batak people mostly are catholics or christian, which means they eat pork. It is widely acceptable to eat pork in Samosir, Parapat and surround Lake Toba. It is not as hygienic as restaurant or hotel, but please don’t compare it in the first place. Samosir, Lake Toba is where you can get genuinely authentic Batak cuisine. If you think you might get stomachache or diarrhea, bring medicine beforehand. Bare in mind that Batak people also eat dogs. They usually call it B1 as dog meat. Ask them beforehand if the dishes consist of dog meat or not.
I’d say there’s rare to no taxi in Samosir. That’s also the reason I hire a guide (with car) so I won’t be inconvenienced. I saw a lot of people rent bicycle or motorbike which can be a fun way to explore Samosir Island. I also saw a guy traveling by foot (he cray-cray for sure) but I wouldn’t recommend this. Unless you are not planning to explore the Samosir Island further.
Last but not least, Samosir and the Lake Toba surrounding is still what I consider raw nature beauty. So I’m begging you not to throw your trash carelessly. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and waste nothing but time (–Baltimore Grotto).
Samosir Island and Lake Toba in Pictures [Coming Soon]
As a self-proclaimed travel photographer, Imma share picture of Samosir Island here. Looking back through the pictures that I took, it doesn’t even do the justice. Trust me when I say it’s prettier in real life. Hmm… Having a thought about it, I think this post is long enough and Imma stop here. I will post in another blog post the compilation of beautiful Samosir Island and Lake Toba. Make sure to subscribe (or follow if you have WordPress) my blog to get the notice 🙂
Hope you enjoy this post and do tell me if I’m missing some info :).